Feature Friday: “The Devils” (1971)

I was looking for a copy of Lair of the White Worm (1988), my favorite Ken Russell film, but couldn’t find it. So we’ll have to make do with The Devils, another extraordinary (and far more notorious) film by the late master.

The Devils was hard to find uncut for a long time, and was even banned in the UK, because it’s giddily blasphemous and offended a lot of people. I watched it in the late 90s and thought it was “OK.” Either I saw a severely edited version, or I was half asleep at the time, or just feeling jaded, because The Devils really is pretty nuts.

And, sure, it’s blasphemous. So what? People blaspheme daily, and so art should, too. And it’s not as though Russell was targeting only “Catholicism” or “Christians” or “religion”; he got a rise out of criticizing everybody. He had too solid an understanding of humanity—of its many accomplishments and its many failings—to take anyone’s sensibilities too seriously. (In that regard he’s a lot like Paul Verhoeven and even Peter Greenaway: folks who’d rather be honest about what is grotesque in human nature.)

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A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies: Mel Gibson’s Hamlet, all films Kenneth Branagh, Sleuth, Joseph Mankiewicz, Thor, and superhero movies (every one)

[You want to read the earlier installments, and we want to help you: Part 1, Part 2]

[Drumming our fingers on the tabletop, humming along to Debbie Gibson, we contemplated just walking out on our waitress, when Jeremy remembered a Payday he had in his pocket. Passing it back and forth, we resumed our conversation.]

Jeremy: All this work, and still no appetizers. So we might as well talk about Kenneth Branagh, as this feeling of weary emptiness reminds me so much of his films …

A D: I remember adoring his Dead Again. I saw it on VHS, not too long after it came out. I had to pause it halfway through, I got so excited. I was, I think, all of sixteen.

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